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In my pursuits as an autodidact I find that one discovery leads to another and that this rather circuitous path never seems to end. So the more I search the more I “discover.”
For instance, my intense interest in the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) led to my stumbling upon Fabritius. Fabritius came slightly before Vermeer and both were painters from Delft. In fact, many think Vermeer was strongly influenced by Fabritius even though Fabritius left few paintings.
The cover of my limited edition CD called “Rara Avis” has a painting by Fabritius called “The Goldfinch.” This painting again appears on the inside of the “Quintessence” package, It is considered to be one of his handful of masterpieces and this painting of quiet perfection fits the title “Rara Avis” perfectly.
Fabritius was only 32 years old when he was killed in the tragic munitions explosion in Delft on October 12, 1654. The only biography of Vermeer I know of begins with the Delft explosion and some biographical background on Delft and Carel Fabritius.
Somehow all of this information and the works of various artists that catch my interest influence me. As always, I am drawn to those artists who endeavor to express what Maurice Ravel called “life’s mysterious thrill.”
My first contact with the music of composer and arranger Nelson Riddle came about as a very young kid.
I loved the theme from the early sixties television show Route 66. Nelson Riddle wrote that and lots of other film music. That piece still does something crazy to me. It has some blend of nostalgia and hipness that always sends me into an almost Proustian cascade of sense memory. That piece of music just makes me happy and I never get tired of it.
Of course, I later heard all of the great and immortal arrangements he did for Sinatra and others. I then became a big enough fan of Mr. Riddle that I purchased some of the albums under his own name.
In my opinion, Nelson Riddle created a totally original and completely American sound. His music has humor, depth and lightness. What a combination.
A pretty sure sign that your having “writer’s block” is when you commence making lists of your favorite compositions much like I did in my last blog.
I have had “blocks” before and I don’t much let them upset me like I used to.
S. J. Perelman (perhaps my favorite writer) explained them as being the natural consequence of having “used up” a certain amount of yourself. I think that’s true.
Not only do I find myself being more selective about what I compose but I also reject more attempts than ever before. I now have to write five pieces before I find just one acceptable. But those are the conditions of the tournament and the wisdom of age negates the youthful exuberance of the past when I was still trying to put together an original repertoire and was a little less self-critical.
Another one of the major drawbacks is a sort of self-plagiarism. This is when you think you have struck upon an idea only to find (upon further deliberation) that you have already mined that vein. Someone once said that all composers only have three tunes and that they merely write endless variations on those three themes. That is a pretty drastic overstatement and over-simplification but it has some ring of truth to it.
I would say that out of the 233 pieces I have written and recorded at least another 250 were discarded. And out of the 233 pieces that survive perhaps only 60-75 really approach something that can be called original and worthy of at least limited permanence.
If this blog seems a little preachy or haughty I have no apologies because I have truly reached a point in my creative life where I have enough confidence to say what I really think and I finally care less than I used to about what people think about it.
Though I still want people to like what I do. It’s just that I’m no longer heartbroken when approbation is not forthcoming.
Here endeth the lesson.
According to the BMI catalog (and they should know) I have written and recorded 233 songs thus far. This number surprised me a little but also got me to thinking on the subject.
Of course many of the 233 pieces are forgotten even to me. So I thought I would compile a list of songs that I have written and recorded that are still “active” and at least on occasion make their way into my live performance repertoire. Here is that list of precisely 40 songs.
House with Four Chimneys
Sweet on You
East Hennepin Swing
Goatee and Shades
Tales from the North Woods
Through Rose Colored Glasses
Sasha and Dinu
Long Ago, Far Away